Books: The Substance of Life

A FEARFUL JOY (343 pp.)—Joyce Gary—Harper ($3).

The best of the living English novelists (E. M. Forster, Graham Greene, Elizabeth Bowen, Henry Green) write with intelligence, wit and moral purpose. They are deeply concerned with the world and its fate. But they can seldom dig into the insides of ordinary human experience, reveling in its meat and marrow, the way the old boys did. By comparison with the comic expansiveness of a Dickens or the moody intensity of a Hardy, they seem merely to be giving life a quick, light-fingered skim.

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